Like Angelina, I am particularly obsessed with one model, as you’ve probably figured out by now! But hell, there aren’t that many hot guys out there on the photo sites, y’know? And this guy is SO HAWT. I wish I could just go with a picture of Eric Decker, since Rob bears an uncanny resemblance to him, but alas… Besides, Eric left me for his fiancee (sob) so I’m just going to have to console myself in Aaron Murray’s arms now. He’ll never leave me! I just know it!
Well, it’s only DAYS before I publish this one. I’m nervous but excited since this is my first paranormal. It’s a huge market no doubt, but I’m not doing vamps or shifters or werewolves, so it’s a bit of a risk to do this one. But! It’s not exactly new ground is it, the demon lover? And who knows, it could be so successful that the gayrotica bestseller list becomes nothing but demon lovers! After dinosaur porn hit it big, honestly, you just don’t know what comes next in this biz…
CHAPTER ONE – IN WHICH DARK O’CLOCK COMES FOR SOL’S SOUL, BUT SO DOES ROB, WHICH MAKES IT A LITTLE EASIER TO TAKE
I could ride a snowboard blindfolded, if I had to. And in this storm, that’s pretty much what I was doing, making my turns by memory, by instinct, by touch. When I got close to the edge of the run, I could finally see a few trees through the swirling blizzard, only their trunks and lower branches visible under their heavy burden of snow. Still, they were enough to see where the run split, the steep blue slope to the right, and the green “bunny” road to the left. But it wasn’t my eyes I was seeing with – it’s hard to explain, but I was seeing with my feet, feeling the change in the pitch of the ground beneath me. A kind of magic, in its own way.
I turned my hips sharply and bent my knees, heels digging in to the ground, coming to a fast stop in a splashy, showy spray of powder.
I didn’t really need to stop, but force of habit from busier, more crowded days was an instinct now. The last thing I needed to do was come over the blind edge of a run and land on some dumbass sitting there, wiped out in the middle of the slope, his equipment all yard-saled across my path.
I didn’t mind whiteout conditions. Not if they drive away the crowds, not if they let me have the whole mountain practically to myself. I tightened my gloves, giving a stimulating rub to the charcoal heating pads stuffed into them, adjusted my goggles and jumped, landing nose forward and powering down the hill.
I loved riding in a blizzard – the silence of it. On a bluebird day, a board’s edge on the groomed corduroy made the ordinary sound of snowboarding, grind, slip, grind, slip as you made your turns, everyone else’s chatter and susurrations adding background noise. Now there wasn’t a single sound to be heard, other than my own soft steady breathing as I tore up the hill.
Round and round I rode, feeling like one of those billionaires who had a private ski resort to go with his mansion. I nodded to the liftie as I stopped at the foot of the chairlift only long enough to undo one binding, skate up to the chair, and let it cup my ass as I dropped into it for another ride to the top.
I started getting tired, but I wasn’t really ready to stop. So I cut to the left for my last run, the bunny road, just relaxing now and slipping down the hill, looking around and relishing the moment. I saw two guys in the woods, blazing on a pipe, and lifted a hand. They waved back, gave me a thumbs up – right on dude – I was one of their kind if I was ready to freeze my ass off to ride, ride, ride. They were the only people I’d seen on the hill so far today.
Then when I got near the wide flat plain at the bottom of the hill, I heard voices shouting and whooping. Some guys must be riding the rails in the park to the left, so I decided to check it out. I stopped at the top of a small crest where the slope broke around a grove of trees.
The whiteout had lifted, or at least the trees to the side of the park must have been screening the snowfall, creating a strange little pocket of visibility. There were four guys there, and the first thing I saw made me blink. One of them was riding the length of the rail on the heel of his board, which I’d never seen before – you could ride a rail for a few seconds on the middle of your board, either forwards or sideways, but physics dictated that what I was seeing was impossible. Then the acrobat flipped around, and rode backwards on the nose of his board. He landed and threw his hands up for applause, and got a few derisive jeers in return from his buddies.
I took my goggles off. I’m snow blind, I thought. Then I saw something I knew was not possible. To get up on the rail, you had to build up speed and be able to land on it. But one of these guys was at the base of the rail…and then he was on it, as if he’d flown up there, his board sideways like the stroke of a T as he balanced for what seemed like forever, walking it back and forth on the rail even as his compatriots threw snowballs at him to dislodge him.
“Holy crap,” I said aloud, and suddenly they all turned to me at once, and the silence became more ominous than peaceful. It lasted a couple of seconds, and then the one who’d been balancing on the rail slid off, pointing his board down the mountain, and jetted off, the rest following quickly behind.
I shook my head, trying to reconcile what I’d seen with what I knew to be possible. Dehydration, yeah, that’s it. I’m dehydrated, I told myself, reaching for the sipper on my Camelbak. Time to call it a day.
There were always people in the lodge, even on a blizzard day like today. Most of them were resort employees, but the rest made up the usual group on a day like this – families who’d planned this day out, dammit, and here they were, sitting in the cafeteria watching the snow and waiting in vain for conditions to “improve.” Or Japanese tourists clomping around in their shiny new equipment, less concerned about the conditions and the runs they could get in than in just being there. And of course the barflies, who would do a couple runs, break for “a beer,” and never go out again.
The bar was fairly full, but I didn’t care. I wouldn’t be here long or drinking much, since I had to drive down the hill. On days like this, I’d loiter, car idling, at the edge of the parking lot, waiting till a caravan of slow cars came down past the resort entrance, and then I’d follow, turning on my own emergency lights to assist anyone behind me, guiding their turns so that they didn’t run off the road.
I ordered a shot of Jager, and a hot chocolate with some whipped cream to soak up the alcohol. I was a good tipper, so the bartender remembered me, and ignored a few other people to serve me first. One of the people he skipped glared at me, and I glared back. I’m tall and lean, with messy dark curly hair that matches a five o’clock shadow I grow by noon that makes me look rougher and tougher than I am. And I’d been told that my eyes were coal dark, the kind of dark eyes that get red hot when I’m mad – again, so I’ve been told. Right now I knew my scowl was more than a match for the watery Jello-eyed glare of the drunk across the way.
I stood at the bar, knocked back my Jager, and sipped my chocolate. I felt eyes on me from one of the tables, more than one set of eyes… I looked over, and four guys were examining me – yeah, that was the word. Not checking me out, but analyzing, considering.
They were the four who’d been riding the park rail, I just knew it. And one of them was cruising the hell out of me.
I’d always known I was gay. It was just a thing, a fact, and fortunately I was from a family of professors, musicians, scientists, where nobody gave a shit about it. It was a strong gene in my mom’s side of the family, everyone knew it. “The gay is strong with that one,” my dad, a Star Wars fanboy, used to say about one cousin or another, who’d been unfortunately born into some crazy religious branch of the family and was denying the gay as much as possible. Mom would swat him when he said it, but never disagreed, because he was always right.
And I’d never been shy about cruising good-looking guys, either. Sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t, sometimes they were straight, sometimes gay, sometimes you could call their sexuality…fluid. The great thing about the mountain was, people looked at each other. Everyone was relaxed and happy and if you made eye contact, so did they. Most people, anyway.
The gay was strong with this one, I knew. What I got in return was a look, the look, of interest, of attraction, of pheromones being forcibly flung across a room, in a way that I’d never felt since…since I was a teenager, and all that shit was new and exciting and pregnant with infinite possibilities. And I couldn’t help but respond. The guy looked Italian or something close, wavy dark hair and dark eyes like mine, but with a deep olive-tan to his skin that was a natural skin tone, not a temporary assist from the sun.
He was beautiful. His eyelashes were like spider webs to ensnare the unsuspecting, the whites of his eyes were movie-star clear, and his smile was so full of intelligent amusement that…well, it was the smile that got me, since I loved a hot man with a brain.
I remembered my bar skills and nodded, a short stroke of the chin without losing eye contact, that said, I’m interested but I’m going to be cool about it. The man tilted his head quickly, back and to the side – come on over.
I angled across the crowd, making a needle of myself to thread through the drunks who walked one way while looking another, waving their beers dangerously in my path. The others at the table glared at me, clearly jealous of the attention I’d received from him. They couldn’t all be his boyfriends, could they?
“Have a seat,” the man said, extending a hand gracefully, and I hesitated. It was a strange way of saying “how you doin’?” it seemed to me – sort of…formal, like I was being interviewed for a job. But even as my mind hesitated, I felt my body obeying, since it was horny from all the fresh air and exercise, and that usually put it in charge.
The man leaned over and offered his hand. “I’m Rob.”
“Sol,” I said, returning the handshake, and then something weird happened. All four of them froze, like I’d said “Satan.”
“S-a-u-l?” Rob asked, still holding my hand, which started to tingle strangely. He had huge hands, football player hands – mine weren’t tiny but they were lost in his.
“S-o-l. Short for Solomon,” I explained.
“Ah,” he said, and smiled a strange, knowing smile. The rest of them scowled, as if I’d offended them somehow. They were good-looking guys too, sort of…but there was this, I don’t know, creepy thing going on. I was getting this “America’s Sexiest Killers” vibe from all three of them…I could feel their eyes on me, as if evaluating which bits to eat and which ones to freeze.
But then Rob coughed, almost like he’d said something, and the spell broke. I realized it was my turn to make conversation.
“So you looked pretty good on the rail out there. Some nice stuff.”
Rob nodded. “Thanks, man. Not too many people out there today, good day to try some new tricks.”
“Yeah, no stupid kids hogging the park.”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“No, thanks, I gotta drive, got a one-shot limit.”
“Wise man,” one of the others said, with half a smirk, and the others chuckled.
Suddenly the room, blazing hot with the press of bodies, felt cold. Conversation stopped for a half a second as people froze, like animals hearing something in the distance. So there was no missing the tone of Rob’s voice when he said to his friends, “Why don’t you all go get yourselves another drink.”
They were up and scattered like leaves in a breeze. “Sorry,” Rob said. “They can be assholes.”
I shrugged. “Whatever, man.” If you rejected every man on the basis of any (sometimes all) of his friends, you’d be a very lonely guy.
Rob took a pull on his beer and gave such an “ahhh” of delight that it sounded like it must have either been his first drink in a long time, or the guy was an alcoholic. But his eyes…those eyes…were so clear and bright, it was clearly the former.
“So you going out again?” I asked him. “Looks like the blizzard’s letting up a bit.”
“Nah, I like it right here,” he smiled, and I discovered that my insides weren’t flesh, but butter – a giant stick of butter that had just melted. I smiled in return. Holy shit, this guy is seriously coming on to me. Correction, this insanely hot guy is seriously coming on to me.
“Yeah, it’s nice to get warm after a good day out,” I said, and cursed myself. That was stupid, stupid! What was that supposed to mean! Stop trying to make casual conversation, and move on to flirting!
“How do you like to get warm?” Rob asked.
I grinned. Whew, he was making it easy on me. “Build a fire, pour a glass of wine, get under the blanket on the couch. Preferably not alone.”
“Is it a big enough couch for two?”
“That was one of my specs when I went shopping, yeah.”
“And who’s waiting at home to get under there with you?”
“His name is Gary.” Then, hastily, as I saw some of the light go out in Rob’s eyes, I added, “My dog.”
Rob chuckled. “I’d like to meet Gary.”
“He’d like that, too.” I could feel the heat in my groin now. The thought of the two of us in bed, we would have to do it facing each other for sure, where I could look in those eyes… “We could put on a command performance for his entertainment.”
Rob’s face changed. He looked away from me with this strange look of hurt, pain, withdrawal. “Yes, you need only command it.”
I waited a moment, blinking, for him to come back, but that was that, I guess. All I could figure was that maybe he had some kind of conflicted closet case thing going on, and his guilt/anxiety/sin whatnot kicked in when he got that close to doin’ it. I’d been through that before – closet cases could be great sex, all that frustration gushing out of them in a torrent of passion, but then they ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with head in hands, oh Lord I am truly sorry blah blah blah. Forget that shit.
I didn’t know what else to do after our conversation had gone from hot to spooky weird, other than to get up. “Well, maybe another time.”
Rob’s face drew closed, cold, angry, with himself, with me, it didn’t matter by then. “Yes, perhaps.” Then he too got up and joined his friends at the bar without another word.
I drove home in the blizzard, hands stiff with anger. “Fuck!” I shouted. “Fuckity fucky fuck.” Now the only part of me that was cold were my blue balls. I ran the scene backwards and forwards, trying to figure out what the hell had gone wrong. Everything had been going so well, there had been absolutely no sign of any kind of…dysfunction. Rob had seemed so comfortable in his own skin, so confident. And then that look on his face, what the hell was that?
I got home in one piece, snow falling on me all the way down into the valley. This was some storm! Most of them couldn’t pierce the heat bubble Reno generated that kept the majority of storm activity on the mountain.
I rolled into my driveway and saw one of the neighbors already out, shoveling the sidewalk. I could get a jump on it, I thought, make it easier to finish the job tomorrow, but then I got out of the car, and the hour I’d sat in there after a hard day of riding suddenly kicked my ass – I was stiff and sore now, and besides, I really needed a drink.
Gary greeted me at the door, his stubby Springer Spaniel tail wagging for all it was worth. “Come on, boy, I know what you want.” I opened the back door and Gary did his business, then came back in and bounced around, delighted to see me as always.
I poured a glass of wine and flopped out on the couch, Gary waiting patiently for me to be settled, then give the signal that he could jump up and settle in on my lap. “You’re better lovin’ than some crazy man, aren’t you? Aren’t you?”
Gary wagged his tail and looked at his master with his intelligent, love-filled eyes. If only I could read your mind, I thought, sipping my wine, watching the fire, and finally slipping into a light slumber.
I was dreaming. Wasn’t I? I was in a chamber, a stone chamber in a stone palace. A dark, windowless place, where smoky torches flickered on the windowless walls. Yes, underground, that’s where I was. The torches, the brazier full of red hot coals before me, were warm, but the floor, the walls, were cold and drank the heat greedily.
I regarded my own hands, beringed and bejeweled, extending gracefully from a robe embroidered with gold, its sleeve marked with strange symbols. I pulled open a silk bag, and used a knife point to extract a small portion of blue powder.
My own voice startled me, low and guttural and speaking…Hebrew? I thought back to Jewish kids I’d known who’d had a religious education, and it sounded like the stuff they had to memorize for their bar mitzvahs, but not quite. And yet I could understand it, well, I could understand the words but not the sense of it.
“Asmodei, come forth, I summon you by my Seal.”
The knife edge flicked and the powder went into the brazier with a hiss and a pop. Suddenly there was a gust of wind, down here where no breeze reached.
The flames in the torches on the other end of the room bent towards some force, some sucking absence down there, and were blown out.
you send a spirit to summon me with your ring, a voice whispered in my head, and something came flying at me from the darkness. I grabbed it with a sorcerer’s sleight of hand, a heavy signet ring emblazoned with the star of David and six dots inscribed around the edge between the points of the star.
My conscious mind chimed in here – I knew that symbol, I had it tattooed on my arm! I put the ring on and waited for the thing to continue.
yet you burn the liver and gall of the Glanos over tamarisk, which is abomination to me.
“I do, for I know you, Asmodeus,” and at the sound of this name there was a hissing and roaring in his ears, for somehow I knew that demons do not care to be named aloud, especially by those who have gained power over them. “And I know to set a wall between you and I that you will not breach.”
you are wise to do so, great King. now state your business, cousin, and let me be about mine.
“The dam is built, your work is done.” And I removed a small iron ring from my little finger and threw it into the brazier. As it struck there was a great sound of chains falling as the demon was released.
Immediately it flung itself at me. I held out my fist, the ring he’d thrown at me facing him, and it was as if the thing hit a wall. I could feel the shock wave, but nothing else happened.
“I was going to release you, demon, but I will have your pledge first. You will go now and trouble us no more.”
did I not so pledge already when you bound me?
“A demon’s pledges must be said thrice. Once to be heard by the one pledged to, once to be heard by the witness attesting, and once for the ears of G-d. I would have your third pledge, creature, or the chains will be rebound.”
It thrashed and roared and I took off the great signet ring again, and made as if to throw it at him. “I was merciful with you, and did not make you swear it then, for I know the pain it causes you, but you will swear it now or I will set you to build another great work even larger than the last.”
I swear it by G-d, it said, even though the last word was like salt in its wounds and it shrieked horribly at the pain, but so desperate was it to be free that it would tolerate any agony.
“Go then, spawn of evil, uncousin, back where you came from between the worlds.”
The thing took shape then, the torches relit themselves so I could see it. It was a great horrible thing with three heads, a ram’s, a bull’s and a man’s, on the body of a great ape, and the man’s head was most awfully ugly of them all. All six red eyes fastened on me and its great lizard tail flicked and twitched like a cat’s does as it watches its prey.
I bring you word from the future, blood of my blood. a day will come when demonkind is unleashed from all its bonds, by your hand, unleashed by your love for one of us. on that day we will meet again, you and I.
And with a great clap of thunder it was gone.
I woke with a shout, scaring Gary off me. What the hell kind of dream was that! I looked at the clock – it was four a.m. and I’d been asleep on the couch for eleven hours. Gary whimpered, he had to go, so badly. Really stiff now, and half numb in the legs where Gary had been draped over me, I let him out the back door. “Go on boy, let me get some coffee in me and I’ll get you your walk, okay?” He seemed to agree with that as he pissed on the lawn.
Four o’clock was a pretty normal wake-up time for me in the winter. I was a morning person anyway, but in the winter I went to bed early. Like, nine. Yeah, I know, but no, I’m in my twenties, not my seventies. It’s just…well…
I’m a pretty lucky guy. No health problems, no mental problems, other than this thing that settles on me in the winter if I’m not careful. Seasonal Affective Whatdyacallit, yeah, that’s it. And when the time change comes…
“Just you wait till Dark O’Clock comes,” I would warn Gary every year, when he didn’t want to go for a long walk in the warm, endless, bright summer evenings. “You’ll be sorry then you didn’t go out now, because I’m not going to be in the mood then.”
That’s what it was in my head, that day in November when the clock “fell back.” And I fell back on my ass, if I wasn’t careful. It was dark at 5 in Reno in the winter, and that meant that 9 could easily feel like midnight. Sure, I went out with friends, but usually out to Craft, a gourmet beer joint located in a semi-residential part of town, a location that required it to close by 9. Then we’d do dinner, and the restaurants were closed by 10 or 10:30 and hey, 11 starts to look like a really late night out when “night” started six hours earlier. Yeah, it’s a 24 hour town, but most people here don’t live a 24 hour lifestyle.
Gary scratched at the back door and I let him back in. When coffee was ready, I went into my office to start work, my “real” work. I still had a day job but I was starting to make a little money at my creative writing, Praise Be to the Ebook, and once you get a ball like that rolling, you don’t let it stop. And since night came down hard on my head by the time I was done working my day job, if I was going to get anything good done, it was going to get done now.
I got the computer up and running, did my daily sales stats check, updated the Excel sheet with my total earnings for the month, nodded grimly – good but not good enough to quit the day job, and started thinking about what I was going to work on this morning.
I heard the usual clicks and pops of the old house warming up in cold weather, and then I heard the boards creaking in the living room. “Come on, Gary,” I said, and turned around to see why he wasn’t already in here keeping me company.
He was. He looked up at me from his bed on the floor as if to say, whuhhh? So then why were the floors creaking? I got up and took a look, trying to tell myself not to get crazy, of course there wasn’t anyone in there.
And there wasn’t. I looked all over, checked the front door – locked – the back door – locked – Gary trailing me, as I even looked in the basement, the closet in the basement, driven by the part of me that always insisted on making sure every corner was checked, every possibility foreseen, some part of me that always expected disaster if I didn’t.
So I went back to my desk, and Gary went back to his dog bed, but he was whining as if there was a cat or something nearby, which he almost never did. He was a very quiet dog, and I can’t say it was reassuring. Then I heard it again.
C R E A K. Louder this time. Dammit, I said, I’m not getting up again. This is an old house and these things happen. I remembered I hadn’t started up my HappyLight, the little box that kept me from doing a bridge jump in the winter by mimicking natural light and tricking my brain into thinking it wasn’t winter. I set the timer on my phone for an hour, and switched on the blazing sun of the little light.
BANG! Something fell over in the living room, for real this time. I felt a chill as I tore out there.
One of the bookcases by the door was on its side, and the front door was wide open. I nearly shit myself – there had been an intruder, after all. But where the fuck had he hidden? I turned on the porch light and looked to see if I could see anyone running down the street, any car tearing out I could get a plate number off of. Nothing.
I called the cops, who came pretty fast – even the criminals were off the street at 4 a.m. on a November morning, and I was in a good neighborhood, which helps. They pretty much did what I did, which was look around, wonder how he got in, asked me if I was sure all the doors had been locked.
“Yeah,” I said insistently, “that’s the thing. I checked all the doors when I first heard the noise. I mean, what kind of robber breaks in and locks the door behind him?”
But the fact of the matter was, after a short inventory, I realized that nothing was missing, and that was the end of the cops’ interest in the matter. Nobody was going to dust for prints, or drive around looking for someone who looked “suspicious.”
There was no working on my creative stuff after that, for sure – I was way too frazzled. I walked Gary in the freezing predawn and he enjoyed that about as much as I did, but at least it burned off some of the anxiety and stress.
The one great thing about my day job was that it wasn’t a real day job, to be honest. I didn’t have to sit in a dark cube far from a window, I didn’t have to punch a clock, I didn’t have to warm a chair and look busy when my work was done. I just had to get my work done, wherever and whenever. I downloaded a queue full of editing work each workday morning from a professional service I contracted with, and when I was finished, the rest of the day was mine. If I wanted to go riding, I could get a half queue, or just not sign up for any at all that day, and be on the slopes at first chair. So yeah, no serious complaints here.
Most days I worked at home, but in the winter I hauled myself through the weather to Homage Bakery for a few hours, if only just to see other human faces. And today was definitely not a stay-at-home day – I really needed a change of scenery after this morning’s little freakout. Gary went to the neighborhood “dog hotel,” a lady down the street who took people’s critters while they were gone all day, and kept them busy. So he had it pretty good, too.
The snow would do one of two things to the bakery crowd – it would keep them home in droves, or stuff the place full. Today, the majority of the customers were to-go types, getting their coffee and baked goods and going back to work, so I had the place pretty much to myself. I made small talk with Alice the barista, knowing she was a boarder, too.
“Did you get your season pass?” I asked.
Alice sighed. “No, I wasn’t sure after last year, you know, it was so dry that a pass was a bad deal, I was afraid this year would be the same…and look at it,” she waved at the snow, falling and falling.
“Yeah I guess I shouldn’t tell you about how it was yesterday, huh?”
“Please don’t,” she laughed. “I’ll just pretend it was Sierra Cement coming down and not powder, okay?”
“You got it. You’re off tomorrow, though, right? Should be a bluebird day, and there aren’t too many people up there tracking it up right now either.”
“I am. I’m going to go up and see if I can’t clip a ticket,” she said, referring to an attempt to get hold of someone’s lift ticket in the parking lot after they were done for the day.
“I have one I won’t be needing tomorrow,” a voice behind me said, and I turned to look at the familiar voice. Sure enough, it was Rob from the bar. He was taller than I remembered – six foot four to my six one, at least.
He smiled and nodded at me. “How’s it going,” as if it was the most natural thing in the world to run into him here. “You want it?”
“Do I!” she cried. He pulled it out of his pants, a free pass from the Marketing department. Who carries one of those around in his pocket?
She hesitated, looking into the deep black pools of Rob’s eyes and seeing something some grandmother or another had taught her to be suspicious of. “What’s the catch?”
“Smart of you to ask. No catch, a gift free and clear, for a friend of a friend,” and he smiled at me again.
Okay, I thought. Number one, this is creepy because I had a fucking intruder in my house this morning so I’m already creeped out, and number two, this guy proved himself to be a little batty yesterday, so now I’m wondering if said intruder was maybe him, since number three, it appears he is stalking me. Oh, and number four, he’s calling me his “friend” already.
“If there’s no catch, okay then.” Alice held out her hand, and Rob gave her the pass.
“Can you make that cappuccino to go?” I asked her abruptly.
“Can I just talk to you for a moment?” Rob said in a voice only I could hear. Strange that he could be standing three feet away and it was like he was whispering in my ear. “I wanted to apologize for yesterday.”
I thought about it. Running away if he was crazy was only going to make him skulk after me some more. At least this way I could signal Alice to call 911 if he started talking about fava beans and a nice chianti.
“Never mind, Alice, for here is fine.”
Rob got a black coffee, and we sat down at a big table, a respectable distance between us. “So,” I said, waiting.
“I acted very weird yesterday, didn’t I?”
“And it’s very weird that you’re here now.”
“No so strange as you might think, Sol.”
“Look, if you’re all tortured about being gay I’m not the guy to talk to. I don’t know anything about being in the closet or anything like that. Never was, never will be. I assume that’s why you were acting all weird yesterday.”
He laughed, and it was the strangest laugh. At first he threw his head back and it was as if his first convulsion was silent, then the next a disbelieving little gasp, and then there came a torrent of such joyful noise that I just couldn’t believe the guy was mental. Super seriously mental people do not laugh like that. Just listening to it was like feeling the sun come out on a cloudy day.
“I’m not in the closet. I am very much a sexual being. I just have a…history with someone who looked like you, a lot like you, that I flash back to sometimes. I’m sorry about that.”
“Okay.” People were weird. That was a thing I accepted. They flaked on you and they said weird shit sometimes, or had crazy political ideas, or laughed at the wrong thing in movies and embarrassed you. If you want to have friends, you just roll with it. If Rob had some kind of stressful memory of somebody I resembled, okay.
“I’m just not in the market for weird right now. This morning has been very nerve-wracking. Someone broke into my house last night.”
His laughter dimmed in his eyes; they dilated and darkened and I could almost swear they were…smoking. “Is that so. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, the dog is fine, nothing was stolen. But all the same.”
“If you like, I think I could make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
“Oh, how so?”
“I’m a…security consultant.”
“Oh?” my eyebrow and my voice were both pretty arched.
“Among other things.” He looked at me levelly. “You have my word I can help you in this matter.”
I don’t know what it was, but I had a pretty good instinct about people. There was something about the way he said this that I…just knew it would be okay. That his word was his bond. At least to me.
“Okay,” I decided, and held my hand out to shake his.
He gripped my hand and noticed part of my forearm tattoo poking out of my right sleeve. “What’s that?”
I rolled back my sleeve to show him.
“Oh, I got it when I was in college. We all went out and got ‘em one day and that was the one that just…spoke to me I guess. I’m not religious,” I said hastily. “I’m an ethnic Jew but not a believer. I just thought it was cool.”
He smiled, and if he’d been letting too much show on his face previously, now it was clear he was holding something back. “It was an excellent choice. Shall we go see your house now?”
We walked through the snow to my house. Homage wasn’t so far from home that it was worth shoveling the snow off the car and warming it up, when I could walk there in fifteen minutes.
“Do you live around here, too?” I asked him, figuring that would help make sense of why he was so conveniently close to the bakery that he’d end up there when I did.
“Yeah, I just moved this month. Got a place by the ball park.”
That wasn’t the best part of town to live in, but I didn’t say anything. Still, it raised my suspicions again – what kind of “security consultant” lives in the most insecure part of town? Gentrification hadn’t hit down there yet, so that wasn’t it. And how good can he be at his job if he can’t afford a better place to live than that? And was he on drugs, I wondered, looking at his windbreaker and thin t-shirt. Either he’s on drugs to keep him warm, or he has to be freezing cold wearing only that, but he wasn’t shivering or jittering so I supposed neither one was the case.
When we got to my place, he walked around the house with an eagle eye that put me a little more at ease. Part of having a good read on people is being able to tell if they know how to do their job or if they’re just bullshitting you. Bullshitters strut about and talk a lot, mostly jargon that makes them sound like they know something you don’t. Rob just worked the house, examining things carefully.
Not to say that it wasn’t weird, the way he did it. He caressed the door frame as he entered – yeah, he checked the lock too but seemed to feel like the whole thing required his attention. He ran his hands around the window frames, touching the original 1930s latches on the sash windows like old friends, hooking and unhooking them. Later I would think it was strange that he didn’t ask me about alarms, despite the peeling ADT sticker on the window from the previous occupant.
He was in the kitchen now. “Basement?”
“Yeah, but there’s no windows down there. Or they’re boarded up…” I thought about it. Were they still boarded up? Had I checked that this morning? I had not. Nothing had looked out of place, but I hadn’t…I’d assumed…shit.
We went down the narrow stairs to the basement, which was brightly lit with fluorescent bulbs. Rob squinted against the glare.
“Any way to turn some of those off?”
“Sorry, no, all on one switch.”
He looked around quickly, the fluorescents clearly getting on his nerves. “What’s this?” he asked, indicating the walk in closet, behind a gold curtain the previous occupant had left there in place of a door.
He pulled back the curtain and turned on the light in there, a single dim bulb in an old fixture that cast a dim orange light. “Nice,” he said, clearly relieved to be out of the office lighting.
He looked around the empty space, about eight foot by eight foot. Then at the boarded up window. “Aha,” he said, and beckoned me closer.
I followed his finger to where it pointed to the smallest crack where the light, and a small trickle of water, was coming through. I leaned in over his arm to see it, and felt his body heat radiating like a stove. It was basement temperature down here, the fifty-something degrees basements always are, but this little room seemed so much warmer all of a sudden. Suddenly I thought, he’d be a furnace boyfriend – the kind of guy who runs so hot you can’t cuddle with him too long, because you’ll both start sweating.
And the scent of him… Most guys these days smell icky, like cologne or “body spray” or some product or another. Or they smell bad, like poor digestion or poor hygiene or inadequate dentistry. And my olfactory brain was very acute. Mostly a curse, these days.
Rob smelled wonderful. Intoxicating. Like cinnamon, or a good Bordeaux that’s had time to breathe, or freshly polished wood, or…so many things. My head spun.
He caught me. His grip was like iron, his skin was like silk…I held on to his forearm to keep from falling farther. “Easy now.” He had me on my feet and yet off my feet, it seemed, up the steep small stairs without any effort on my part. He laid me down on the couch.
“Some tea, I think,” he said and busied himself in the kitchen.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Rough day. I guess I thought I could just shine it off, being…” Having my privacy, my security, shattered by some unknown entity. Having the cops shrug and say, well you weren’t robbed, what do you want?
“Not so easily shined off,” he said. I heard the teacups but not the stove or the microwave, but next thing I knew, there he was with a steaming cup of brew. So I must have passed out for a second again, I thought.
“Here. Careful, it’s hot.”
“Mmm. Wow. That is delicious!” I nearly shouted. It tasted like my ginger peach tea but…better. I felt like a new man. What was that smell? I kept the cup at my nose, trying to identify it. Like allspice, or nutmeg, something with a rough undertone to it, almost bitter, sulfurous…
“Easy now. A little at a time.”
I nodded, sitting up a little, taking a greedier sip in defiance of his edict. Rob was crouched on the floor next to me at eye level, his concern like a…watchfulness. He was so handsome, I thought. So gorgeous. So kind…
I sneezed, spilling a little of the tea, burning my hand. “Ow, shit!”
Rob took the cup and put it on the coffee table. “That’s enough for now. I’m going downstairs to take care of your little problem.”
“Do you need anything? Any tools?”
He tapped his forehead. “Got what I need right here.”
“Okay, mister handyman. If you say so.”
To be honest, I didn’t really know what all was down there. Cans of paint and sealant and…parts, left by the previous owner. I worked on a computer, grew up in a house of brainiacs, and carried on the proud family tradition of calling the professionals when “stuff broke.”
I heard some rattling around, and a hiss like water boiling, and a pounding sound like something being forced into place. Then Rob came up with a big smile on his face.
“All done. Your intruder came through that window.”
“I would have sworn that was sealed shut.”
“Not quite. But it is now.”
“Thank you.” I knew it was true, somehow – that there would be no more intruders. That Rob had fixed that for me. I felt this wave of affection for him wash over me, of gratitude, of…
Lust. Let’s face it. A man rescues you, fixes your broken needs-a-man-to-fix-it stuff, and makes you a cup of tea. And looks so good doing it.
“So what did you mean, when you said I need only command you?”
His eyes darkened, his face got serious. “It’s…complicated.”
I pulled my legs up. “Sit down.” For some reason this was all seeming less and less weird to me. Or weird was starting to be my new normal, I guess.
He sat on the end of the couch, staring straight ahead. “I told you I had a relationship with…someone like you, long ago. I made a promise then. I can’t really explain it to you now, not yet.” He looked at me. “It’s too early.”
“Okay. So what can you tell me?”
He turned to me. “That I burn for you,” he whispered, and for a moment he literally did. There was a glint of red in his eyes, like photo red eye, there and gone in a second.
I reached out and took his big warm hand in mine. “I’m glad to hear it,” I said.
And he reached for me.
AHAHAHA THAT’S ALL YOU GET 😉 Look for “Rob the Daemon” coming soon, and pick the story up right there with the HOT DEMON SEXIN’ that comes next!